Brian Merriman Criticism - Essay

W. B. Yeats (essay date 1926)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to The Midnight Court and The Adventures of a Luckless Fellow, by Brian Merriman and Denis Fellow, translated by Percy Arland Ussher, Jonathan Cape, 1926, pp. 5-12.

[In this essay, Yeats, perhaps the most famous of Ireland's poets, connects "The Midnight Court" with Jonathan Swift's Cadenus and Vanessa.]

Months ago Mr. Ussher asked me to introduce his translation of The Midnight Court. I had seen a few pages in an Irish magazine; praised its vitality; my words had been repeated; and because I could discover no reason for refusal that did not make me a little ashamed, I consented. Yet I could wish that a Gaelic scholar had been...

(The entire section is 1654 words.)

Frank O'Connor (essay date 1945)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A preface to The Midnight Court: A Rhythmical Bacchanalia from the Irish of Bryan Merryman, translated by Frank O'Connor, Maurice Fridberg, 1945, pp. 5-11.

[In the following essay, O'Connor suggests that the humor of "The Midnight Court" conveys a social message in line with the theories of such contemporaries as Rousseau and Savage.]

Architecturally, the little city of Limerick is one of the pleasantest spots in Ireland. The Georgian town stands at the other side of the river from the mediaeval town which has a castle with drum towers and a cathedral with a Transitional Cistercian core and a fifteenth century shell, all in curling papers of battlements. Across...

(The entire section is 2117 words.)

R. A. Breatnach (essay date 1956)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: ''Ad 'Cúirt an Mheadhoin Oidhche' ll. 597-8," in Eigse: A Journal of Irish Studies, Vol. VIII, No. 2, 1956, pp. 140-43.

[In the following essay, Breatnach demonstrates that traditional English translations of two lines of Merriman's "The Midnight Court" lead to misunderstandings about the poem's theme.]

The lines in question have been seriously misunderstood.1 In Stern's edition, CZ v. 220, they are as follows:—

Ó d'aibig an tadhbhar do bhronn mac Dé
Gan sagart ar domhan dá dtabhairt dá chéile.

The lines are metrically correct, because unstressed...

(The entire section is 1574 words.)

Patrick C. Power (essay date 1971)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Cúirt an Mhea-Oíche: The Midnight Court by Brian Merriman, translated by Patrick C. Power, The Mercier Press, 1971, pp. 6-8.

[In the following essay, Power examines the structure of "The Midnight Court" and connects it with other examples of Irish poetry.]

Cúirt an Mhean-oíeheThe Midnight Court—written by Brian Merriman in 1780 is considered one of the most important contributions to Gaelic literature in the eighteenth century. The treatment of the theme, the richness of the diction and the length at which the poet successfully sustains his work, entitle it to the fame it has gained since it was composed....

(The entire section is 1010 words.)

Margaret MacCurtain (essay date 1974)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Pre-Famine Peasantry in Ireland: Definition and Theme," in Irish University Review, Vol. 4, No. 2, Autumn, 1974, pp. 190-92.

[In the following excerpt, MacCurtain highlights the conflict between the courtly poetic genre of "The Midnight Court" and the poem's evocation of peasant culture.]

From another angle (not quite that of Daniel Corkery7), there was a hidden Ireland that belonged to the peasantry who communicated with each other in the Irish language and through Irish customs. It was the rich Gaelic culture of "The Midnight Court": passionate, earthy, explicit in its sexual imagery, belonging to a world where sexual experience was highly valued,...

(The entire section is 686 words.)

Seán Ó Tuama (essay date 1981)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Brian Merriman and His Court," in Irish University Review, Vol. 11, No. 2, Autumn, 1981, pp. 149-64.

[In the following article, Ó Tuama argues that, whereas the prologue and epilogue sections of '"The Midnight Court" are based on the Anglo-French Court of Love tradition, the monologues that form the body of the poem come from the late-medieval tradition of popular Irish folk poetry. Ó Tuama then proceeds to connect the poem's examination of illegitimacy with the presumed illegitimacy of Merriman.]

The emergence of an uniquely talented poet such as Brian Merriman in County Clare in the second half of the eighteenth century was in many ways an unlikely event....

(The entire section is 6688 words.)

Cosslett Ó Cuinn (essay date 1982)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Merriman's Court," in The Pleasures of Gaelic Poetry, edited by Seá n Mac Réamoinn, Allen Lane, 1982, pp. 111-26.

[In the following essay, Ó Cuinn translates much of "The Midnight Court" into English, pointing out passages' connections to classical literature as he goes.]

'Cúirt an Mheán Oíche' does not mean 'courting at midnight' as is said to have been assumed by whoever was responsible for refusing permission to erect a monument to Brian Merriman in Feakle graveyard in 1947. Just so, in 1957, the Archbishop refused to let the body of Nikos Kazantzakis lie in state in an Athenian Church. He, among a lot of other things, had written a sequel to Homer's...

(The entire section is 3222 words.)

Gearóid Ó Crualaoich (essay date 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Vision of Liberation in Cúirt an Mheán Oíche," in Folia Gadelica: Essays Presented by Former Students to R. A Breatnach, edited by Pádraig de Brún, Seán Ó Coileáin, and P'adraig Ó Rianin, Cork University Press, 1983, pp. 95-104.

[In the following article, Ó Crualaoich systematically analyzes the major arguments of the previous sixty years regarding "The Midnight Court" and situates Merriman's poem in its Irish and European historical contexts.]

Cúirt an Mheán Oíche is surely the most genuinely popular poem in Irish known to us. Among ordinary people, of perhaps no very sophisticated literary tastes, it has been, and still is, a...

(The entire section is 5623 words.)

Kevin O'Neill (essay date 1984)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Demographer Looks at Cúirt an Mheán Oíche," in Éire-Ireland, Vol. XIX, No. 2, Summer, 1984, pp. 135-43.

[In the following essay, O'Neill uses "The Midnight Court" to show that Irish marriage patterns associated with the post-Famine era actually arose in the late eighteenth century.]

During the turbulent years of revolution and national consolidation, Daniel Corkery, novelist, literary critic and cultural historian, issued a call of central importance to the development of independent Irish intellectual life. Writing early in this century, under the influence of the Gaelic revival movement, Corkery urged a radical revaluation of intellectual perspectives....

(The entire section is 3473 words.)

Seamus Heaney (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Orpheus in Ireland: On Brian Merriman's The Midnight Court" in The Southern Review, Louisana State University, Vol. 31, No. 3, July, 1995, pp. 786-806.

[In the following essay (originally a lecture delivered at Oxford University), Heaney, the best known Irish poet of the late twentieth century, traces the political contexts of earlier interpretations of "The Midnight Court" and argues that the poem deserves greater recognition as a classic of world literature.]

Joseph Brodsky once suggested that the highest goal human beings can set themselves is the creation of civilisation. What Brodsky had in mind was much the same thing, I assume, as W. B. Yeats had...

(The entire section is 8248 words.)